Royal Dutch Shell has been accused of pursuing a strategy that would lead to potentially catastrophic climate change after an internal document acknowledged a global temperature rise of 4C, twice the level considered safe for the planet.
A paper used for guiding future business planning at the Anglo-Dutch multinational assumes that carbon dioxide emissions will fail to limit temperature increases to 2C, the internationally agreed threshold to prevent widespread flooding, famine and desertification.
Instead, the New Lens Scenarios document refers to a forecast by the independent International Energy Agency (IEA) that points to a temperature rise of up to 4C in the short term, rising later to 6C.
The revelations come ahead of the annual general meeting of Shell shareholders in the Netherlands on Tuesday, where the group has accepted a shareholder resolution demanding more transparency about the group’s impact on climate change.
Hundreds of environmentalists took to the seas off Seattle in kayaks, canoes and paddleboards on Sunday to protest against the company’s’s controversial plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean. The “Shell No” protest was held close to where Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig is docked. One banner read: “We can’t burn all the oil on the planet and still live on it.”
Ben van Beurden, the Shell chief executive, has repeatedly stated that the fossil fuel giant is a responsible company that fully accepts the need to counter manmade global warming, has campaigned for a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, and is moving its focus from oil to cleaner fuels such as gas.
But an analysis of Shell’s New Lens planning document points to an acceptance that world temperatures will rise to a level that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argues would have a severe and widespread impact. A 4C global rise by 2100 would entail a sea level rise of between 52cm and 98cm, leading to widespread coastal flooding. There would be widespread risk of animal and plant extinctions and global agriculture would be severely hit. A 4C average would also mask more severe local impacts: the Arctic and western and southern Africa could experience warming up to 10C.
The Shell document says: “Both our (oceans and mountains) scenarios and the IEA New Policies scenario (and our base case energy demand and outlook) do not limit emissions to be consistent with the back-calculated 450 parts per million (Co2 in the atmosphere) 2 degrees C.”
It adds: “We also do not see governments taking steps now that are consistent with 2 degrees C scenario.”
Environmentalists said the presumptions undermine Shell’s ability to talk with authority on climate change.